Sunday, October 27, 2013

A bit about New Zealand birds

Where would you go to see Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, House Sparrows, Starlings, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers, Dunnocks and Skylarks? Try New Zealand! All these species – and some others from Australia – were introduced by the early (white) settlers and are mostly thriving. Among other introduced species are the Indian Myna, the Eastern Rosella and various morphs of the good old Mallard.
There are a few common native species to be seen, of which the Tui and the Pukeko (Purple Swamphen) are the most frequent, at least in the Auckland area on North Island, which is where I was. A real treat were the Paradise Shelduck, which I previously knew only from collections.
The only little birds of note are the Silvereye, Grey Warbler and the endearing Fantail, of which more anon.

Raptors are few and far between in NZ, apart from the local Harrier, which is as common as Buzzards are here. There is a falcon, similar to our Kestrel, but I didn't see one.
If you are in the right place at the right time, there are plenty of shorebirds and pelagics to be seen, but I managed relatively few: Redbilled Gull, Blackbacked Gull, Australasian Gannet, New Zealand Dotterel, Spurwinged Plover, Pied Stilt, Variable Oystercatcher and two out of the fourteen species of Shag (Cormorant) that are on the country's list.
Most of the endemics are threatened, rare or even extinct, at least on the mainland. Islands are now the main stronghold of threatened species, because it is easier to eliminate the introduced pest species that have caused the problem: rats, stoats, possums, feral cats, hedgehogs and so on. I visited one such island, called Tiritiri Matangi, a short ferry ride from the mainland north of Auckland, where I was lucky enough to see several species that most kiwis have heard of but never seen: Stitchbird, North Island Saddleback, North Island Robin, Bellbird, Red-crowned Parakeet, Brown Quail, Brown Teal, and a real prize, the Kokako, also known as the Purple-wattled Crow.
It's not much of a list, I know, but I went to New Zealand to be with my family, not to birdwatch. Even so, I managed a handful of “lifers” for my little-boy-collectors' list.

Paradise Shelduck


Mike and Ann said...

Jake - I am sorry to hurry or hasten you in any way, but you did promise to tell us more of the fantail 'Anon'.
Regards, Mike.

Jake Allsop said...

I yield to this soft impeachment, as Sid Perelman used to say. I just got back from a wedding: two sixty-yesr-old friends of mine giving it a second shot, bless them.